Shafted! MTA won’t build brand-new L train tunnel

An L of a good time!
The Brooklyn Paper / Richard Moon

They can’t dig their way out of this one.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority will not build a new L train tunnel as an alternative to the extensive repairs of the existing tubes that would close the line between the boroughs for years, say local pols — claiming the atrophying Canarsie Tube is so close to collapsing, it may not have time to construct another passageway before it caves in.

“Before they could complete such a project, the problems they are anticipating on the L train could happen,” said Minna Elias, chief of staff to Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D–New York) on Wednesday at the first meeting of the L Train Coalition, a group of local businesses rallying to fight the closure. “They are concerned about safety.”

Transit honchos claim the tubes that carry passengers between Williamsburg and Manhattan are in immediate need of repair due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, said Elias — the tunnels and the underlying wiring are falling apart after being ravaged by salt water, and the authority says concrete could begin raining down within years.

“What they’re afraid of is there could be a derailment if cement falls or there would be a signal failure because they are having trouble with running the cables,” said Elias.

The authority also says it does not have the cash for a new tube, according to Elias — it claims the undertaking would cost a $4.5 billion, while repairs to the crumbling tubes would fall closer to $700 million.

And while the city could cover most of the repair costs with leftover federal funds set aside for Sandy fix-ups — a pool of money authorities are afraid will dry up if not assigned to a project by the end of the year — the train reps would be on their own if they had to conjure the billions for a brand new shaft, she said.

But locals insist that digging a new tunnel remains the best option for the L-adjacent communities, who would suffer during a long-term closure, and refused to accept the authority crying poor. They demanded the city — which is planning to pour $2.5 billion into a flashy trolley line and $55 million into extending ferry service along the East River — kick in some and implore the Feds to preserve the expiring pile of Sandy funds, said one local.

“I don’t think we should just accept the idea that the third tunnel isn’t possible,” said Del Teague, who is a member of the chair of the local community board’s land-use committee. “Things can be done if the government feels people are going to revolt strongly enough.”

The authority is still mulling over a handful of options for salvaging the two tubes, said Elias — it may halt service entirely to get the repairs done in about two years, or shut it down on nights and weekends for up to seven years. It is also considering fixing one tube at a time, though that would reduce service by about 75 percent and could take closer to four years.

Elected officials are still pushing transit reps to host a public meeting some time in the next month to provide more answers to freaking out straphangers and local businesses, said Elias, but so far the tight-lipped authority has refused to commit to a date.

Reach reporter Allegra Hobbs at ahobbs@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8312.